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Stamp News February 2004

                                    Woodchip Free Zone 

1988 stamps hard-to-get on cover  - but not in a Year album!

Some readers will recall the hype surrounding the 'scarce' 1988 Australia Post Year album which peaked at a retail price of around $375 in the early 1990s (its initial cost was $66.95). Promoters of this product even went so far as to proffer that a figure of $1000 was a possibility.  Fortunately that never eventuated and like all nine day wonders this item eventually fell out of favour and many a finger was burnt along the way as the value rapidly came back to earth.  The fact is the item was always available in quantities far greater than any real collector demand, and it was greed, and greed alone, which fuelled the rise in the price of this item.  Nowadays 1988 Year albums, and most other years for that matter, change hands for less than the face value of the stamp contents and are unceremoniously stripped for postage, which is a pity as they are rather attractive products.

     Collecting Year albums is fine so long as one doesn't mind eventually losing money.  A challenge however such collecting is not.  I wonder how many collectors instead choose to collect the stamps contained in Year albums on commercial cover, used during the period of issue of the stamps?  Very few of course in relation to those who buy Year albums, yet this is a challenge worthy of any philatelist who enjoys the thrill of the chase.  Take the stamps contained in our 1988 Year album for instance.  Obtaining an example of each of these stamps commercially used on cover during respective periods of issue is quite difficult (do not confuse 1988 stamps used in 2004 which is a common practice; such items are next to useless).  Excluding the Possum Frama stamps, which are another challenge again (!), the Brusden-White Decimals II catalogue prices the 1988 stamps used on cover at a total of $357.  I provided those prices in the catalogue based upon 15 years of research and believe that they reflect reasonably accurately the retail prices one might expect to pay for the respective stamps used on cover.  Some usages, such as solo frankings, are scarcer and will probably sell at a premium.  I have illustrated some examples of scarcer usages. Do yourself a favour, take up the challenge of collecting your stamps commercially used in period on cover, and put more fun in your philately.  You will be making a sound choice as covers other than base rate items (ie 37c and 39c during 1988) generally exist in fairly limited quantities, unlike mass produced 'collectables', and you will have acquired something worthwhile and unlike what every second collector has.  Items such as the selection illustrated will always be in demand with smart collectors and will increase in value as demand inevitably grows.

     Figure 1 shows 13 Oct 1988 use of the Living Together 70c which, along with the 65c and 68c, is one of the more difficult stamps of this wonderful series to find commercially used on cover.  Here two 70c stamps and a 4c make up the $1.44 combined certified ($1.05) letter rate (39c).  Value : $15 (stamps off cover $1.80).

                                                                   Figure 1

Figure 2.  The Art of the Desert 55c is a very difficult stamp to find on commercial cover, particularly as a solo franking.  This 5 Oct 1988 use was for the intrastate surface rate for non-standard articles which became 55c four days earlier.  My Decimals II price of $10 is intended for a mixed franking with other contemporary stamps.  This is somewhat better and indeed is the only solo franking of this stamp I have seen!  Value : $20 (off cover $1.25).

                                                                    Figure 2

Figure 3.  Another very difficult stamp to find on commercial cover is the Booklet 2c Australian Crafts (the 5c is almost equally difficult).  Here we have a 2c added to a Possum Frama 39c (cliché 'A49' which was allocated to Noosa Heads) used from the Sunshine Coast on 16 May 1989.  In fact the letter rate did not increase to 41c until 1 Sep 1989 so the additional 2c was not required.  Perhaps the sender just wanted to 'get rid' of  a rather useless stamp.  Value : $40 (stamps off cover $4.50).  In Decimals II I priced the 2c on cover at $25 (for the white paper, the Harrison paper is $40), but the A49 Frama is even scarcer on cover hence my higher valuation.

                                                              Figure 3

Figure 4.  14 Nov 1988 use of Landscape of Australia 65c together with Living Together 5c to make up 70c 2nd weight step for non-standard intrastate articles by surface mail.  The few usages I have seen of this stamp are more often than not on large covers.  Value : $12 (stamps off cover $1.70).

                                                              Figure 4 

Figure 5 shows exemplary use of the Christmas 63c for the concessional Greetings card airmail rate to Zone 5 countries, in this instance on 19 Dec 1988 to U.K.  These are very hard to find.  Value : $20 (off cover $1.50).

                                                             Figure 5

Rod Perry has been a philatelic trader since 1962 and a regular Stamp News advertiser since the 1960s. He founded Rodney A Perry Auction Galleries (now Millennium Philatelic Auctions) in 1971. As a collector he has exhibited   nationally and internationally. Rod prefers his used stamps on cover and likens taking a stamp off its original cover to converting a tree to woodchips.